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Telluride 2011: Glenn Close's Passion Project 'Albert Nobbs' Premieres

Albert Nobbs

Over the 29 years that Glenn Close has dreamed of bringing Albert Nobbs to the big screen, she has accrued 13 Emmy nods, winning three; three Tony nods, winning them all; one Obie nod, which resulted in a win; six Screen Actors Guild nods, winning one; 10 Golden Globe nods, winning two; and five Oscar nods, winning -- criminally -- none. That last stat might well need to be updated after the next Academy Awards, now that Close, 64, has accomplished her mission -- Nobbs had its world premiere at the Telluride Film Festival last night -- and given yet another standout performance.

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Nobbs was helmed by Rodrigo Garcia, who had previously directed Close twice before on Things You Can Tell Just by Looking at Her (1999) and Nine Lives (2005), but make no mistake about it: it is Close's movie. She first encountered the material on which it's based -- a short story from the 19th century -- when it was being turned into an off-Broadway play in 1982; at the time, she auditioned for and ultimately won the part, and it has been her obsession ever since. After almost getting it financed 10 years ago, things fell apart, but finally came together again about a year ago. She co-wrote the screenplay (with John Banville), co-produced the pic (along with Bonnie Curtis, Julie Lynn, and Alan Moloney), and, of course, played the lead again, all these years since she first did.

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Albert Nobbs, if you haven't heard, is a woman who passes as a man. Now middle-aged and working at a high-end hotel in late-1800s Dublin, she has been inhabiting the persona of a male waiter since the age of 14, when a traumatic incident, followed shortly thereafter by a well-paying professional opportunity, convinced her that doing so might be the best way to stay safe (and out of the poor house). Buried beneath her formal menswear, however, are not only corsetted breasts, but also long-repressed dreams of professional freedom and personal romance. When she meets -- through a series of events that are admittedly hard to believe -- someone else living a similar lie (Janet McTeer, in an awards-caliber turn) while also married to a woman, she is inspired to pursue her own love interest (Mia Wasikowska, who is very good, as always)  with unprecedented brazenness.

The movie has its flaws -- there are several moments in which exposition is awkwardly provided by having Nobbs talk to herself; it's hard to believe that the only person who ever discovered Nobbs' secret was someone else who possessed the same one; and the age-gap between Close and Wasikowska is undeniably weird.

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But, in terms of awards, I think that Close is a safe bet for a best actress nomination (at least) -- especially when you consider that far less revered actresses have earned nods for playing characters dealing with similar issues in comparable or lesser performances/films -- see: Felicity Huffman in Transamerica (2005). Moreover, Close is tremendously likable and oozes dignity -- her speech introducing the film last night was the epitome of humility and class (she called it "the project of my dreams" and said "I will never live through a moment like this again in my life... it's an out-of-body experience") -- and it is palpably clear that many in the industry would like to see her finally get the recognition that she deserves, especially for a project about which she is so passionate.

Close once joked, "I've often been mistaken for Meryl Streep, although never on Oscar night." It's quite possible that this year's best actress race will come down to Streep (who has already won two Oscars -- one for lead and one for supporting -- but none in the last 29 years) for The Iron Lady and Close for Nobbs. It will be fascinating to see whether or not voters can make the distinction this time around.